We, Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation, have been struggling for a world where women can live a violence-free, equal, and free life since 1990. We establish solidarity with women in our shelter and solidarity center; we also bear witness to the workings of violence that women are exposed to, the methods they develop against violence, and the effectiveness and operability of the mechanisms they resort to while striving to stay away violence. In the wake of Turkey’s overnight withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention with the signature of the President, the year 2021 has assumed a special place in the memories of women living in Turkey as well as of organizations working to combat violence. The Istanbul Convention, the most comprehensive international legal document for combating male violence against women, is profoundly important legal text for us, as it informs the states about their obligations to eliminate and prevent violence. This convention, which had never been fully implemented in Turkey even though it was the very first signatory state, provided us with an important legal baseline and, most importantly, is the only legal text that represented our shared understanding on male violence. Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention, on the other hand, evidently exemplified how women have been deprived of their rights by ways of restrictions and obstacles to accessing their rights. And, due to problems in implementation, we had been observing it for a very long time in the field.
For a long time, we have been bearing witness to how Turkey’s path to withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention was built with the assaults on women’s rights. On the one hand, the continuity of the male-dominated system in which women are oppressed through the naturalization of gender roles is ensured, on the other hand, discrimination and male violence are virtually encouraged to prevent women from building equal and free lives. Ignoring that the root-cause of male violence is gender inequality renders inoperative the mechanisms for combating violence. The works carried out after Turkey’s withdrawal decision attempt at demonstrating that the Turkish state has not given up on the fight against violence against women. However, these works, lacking a gender equality perspective, are far from proposing a solution to the problem and instead lead to a misuse of time and resources.
The fact that the Assembly Research Commission for Determining the Causes of Violence against Women tries to rediscover the root-causes of violence by summoning non-experts and individuals who openly oppose women’s rights, the fact that the IV. National Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women does not mention the term “gender” even once, and the fact that the recent Turkish Penal Code amendment reduced the combat with violence against women to the penal code not only fails to rectify the policy gap caused by the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, it also proved to us once again that any work carried out without a gender equality perspective would be baseless and inoperative.
As our 2021 research on Violence against Women: Women’s Experiences, Institutions and Paths demonstrates, when women want to get away from violence, social focal points such as family, close circles, and institutions play a decisive role in women’s struggle to get out of the violent relationship either by supporting or by restraining women. In addition to the solidarity that we form with women at Mor Çatı, we continue to fight for gender equality so that women can build free lives and to closely monitor and advise the institutions that are incumbent on combating violence and tell how they should work. Examining all the works we did in 2021, you could see that all the activities are based on promoting gender equality and feminist social work practices and informing practitioners about the problems faced by women and their solutions.
Undoubtedly, women who have crossed path with Mor Çatı since 1990 and feminists who have always kept an eye on Mor Çatı made all these works possible. We hope that this annual report will contribute to our feminist solidarity against male violence.